AMU commemorates University Founder Sir Sayyad Ah Khan:
17th October was quite a different day
at Aligarh Muslim University when hundreds of its alumni and
prominent personalities from within the country as well as abroad
gathered to celebrate the
anniversary of its founder Sir Syed Ahmad ....
Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898) was a great visionary, statesman and
Muslim reformer of the 19th century, the like of whom is rare. He
wanted to make the community and country progressive and take them
forward on modern lines. His supreme interest was intellectual
development of the people through modern education. He was the first
Indian Muslim to contribute to the intellectual and institutional
foundation of Muslim modernization in Southern Asia. Interest of
community and country was dearer to him rather than anything else.
He was successful in making the Muslims understand the importance of
modern education and endeavour their best to achieve it in order to
stand on their own legs and live a dignified life in accordance with
Allama Mohammed Iqbal says:
‘’Mubtalaayay dard koi azu ho roti hai aankh
qadar hamdard saray jism ki hoti hai aankh’’
(The eye weeps for the suffering of any and every
part of the body,
How sympathetic it is to the entire organism)
the Muslim community Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was and is like the eye
which weeps for the suffering of any and every part of the body.
The sufferings of the community worried him. He took an oath to
reform, educate and empower the Muslim community and was successful
to a great extent in implementing it despite strong opposition from
a section of the Muslim community which hated the British and their
language. Today we can see the products of the Aligarh Muslim
University adoring in every field of activity in India and
neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. They have
earned a name for the community and country, thanks to the Aligarh
Syed’s educational caravan reached everywhere including Tamil Nadu
from where I hail. It inspired and encouraged people to take to
modern education by establishing educational institutions.
BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD
Syed was born on 17 October 1817 in Delhi. His family was highly
regarded by the Mughal dynasty. His maternal grandfather Khwajah
Farid was a ‘wazir’ (minister) in the court of Akbar Shah II. His
paternal grandfather Syed Hadi held a ‘mansab’ of the title of
Jawwad Ali Khan in the court of Alamgir II. Syed Ahmed’s father, Mir
Muttaqi was also close to Akbar Shah but rejected the position and
titles offered to him due to his interest in mysticism. Perhaps he
abhorred the way the materialistic world functioned. He died when
Syed Ahmed was about 21 years of age. Mother, Azizunnissa Begum was,
however, a strong willed woman of clearly defined principles. She
showed extraordinary interest in the education, character building
and upbringing of her son. She was a strict and God fearing lady.
Syed received his education under the old system prevailing at that
time. He learnt to read the holy Quran under a female teacher at his
home. After this, Maulvi Hamidud Din, became his private tutor. He
completed a course in Persian and Arabic, and later took to the
study of mathematics, which was a favourite subject of the maternal
side of his family. He later took interest in medicine and studied
some well-known books on the subject. At the age of 19 his formal
education came to an end but he continued his studies privately. He
started taking a keen interest in the literary gatherings and
cultural activities of the city.
passing away of his father left the family in financial
difficulties, and after a limited education he had no option but to
work for his livelihood. Starting as a clerk with the East India
Company in 1938, he qualified three years later as a sub-judge and
served in the judicial department at various places.
supreme interest of Sir Syed’s life was education in its widest
sense. He wanted to create a scientific temperament among the
Muslims of India and to make the modern knowledge of Science
available to them. He championed the cause of modern education at a
time when all the Indians in general and Indian Muslims in
particular considered it a sin to get modern education and that too
through English language. He began establishing schools, at
Muradabad in 1858 and Ghazipur in 1863. A more ambitious undertaking
was the foundation of the Scientific Society, which published
translations of many educational texts and issued a bilingual
journal in Urdu and English. It was for the use of all citizens and
were jointly operated by the Hindus and Muslims. In the late 1860s
there occurred some developments that were challenges to his
activities. In 1867 he was transferred to Benares, a city on the
Ganges with great religious significance for Hindus. At about the
same time a movement started at Benares to replace Urdu, the
language spoken by the Muslims, with Hindi. This movement and the
attempts to substitute Hindi for Urdu publications of the Scientific
Society convinced Syed that he should do something. Thus during a
visit to England (1869-70) he prepared plans for a great educational
institution. They were "a Muslim Cambridge." On his return he set
up a committee for the purpose and also started an influential
journal, Tahzib al-Akhlaq "Social Reform" for the uplift and reforms
of the Muslims. A Muslim school was established at Aligarh in May
1875, and after his retirement in 1876, Sir Syed dedicated himself
to make it a college.
In January 1877 the Viceroy laid the
foundation stone of the college. In spite of opposition to Syed’s
projects, the college made rapid progress. In 1886 Syed organised
the All-India Mohammadan Educational Conference, which met annually
at different places to promote education and to provide the Muslims
with a common platform. Syed advised the Muslims against joining
active politics and to concentrate instead on education. Muslims
generally followed his advice and abstained from politics. This
advice is applicable even today. We have to concentrate our
attention more on education for the uplift of the backward Muslim
community. Many reports have clearly noted that the Muslims are
educationally and economically more backward.
Throughout his life Syed Ahmed Khan showed concern with how Indian
Muslims could adapt to intellectual and political change
accompanying Western rule. His first mission became reinterpretation
of Muslim ideology so as to reconcile tradition with Western
education and science. He argued in several books on Islam that the
holy Quran rested on a deep appreciation of reason and natural law
and therefore did not preclude Muslim involvement in scientific
methodology. These themes, mixed with a call for Muslim education,
regularly appeared in his journals, the Mohammedan Social Reformer
and the Aligarh Institute Gazette.
Ahmed's ideas became institutionalized despite criticism from
theologians. In 1862 he formed a scientific society, and 13 years
later he assisted in establishing the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental
College, which prospered and became the key intellectual center for
Indian Muslims - The Aligarh Muslim University. The success of the
college was largely due to his leadership and a curriculum embodying
both Western and Oriental studies.
Syed’s contributions for the betterment and empowerment of the
Muslims are great. His position in the judicial department left him
time to be active in many fields. His career as an author in Urdu
started at the age of 23. In 1847 he brought out an important book
"Monuments of the Great" on the antiquities of Delhi. Even more
important was his pamphlet "The Causes of the Indian Revolt". His
interest in religion was also active and lifelong. He wrote on the
Life of Prophet Muhammad (Sal-am) and devoted himself to write
several volumes of a modernist commentary on the holy Quran. In
these works he explained how the Islamic faith could go with
progressive scientific and political ideas of his time.
Syed was a government civil servant and s scholar. The 1857 revolt
was a turning point in his life. The following are his important
‘’ASARUS SANADEED’’: It is an archaeological masterpiece providing a
wealth of information on countless historical monuments in Delhi
from the eight hundred long Muslim rule. This book was published in
‘‘ASBAB-E-BAGHAWAT-E-HIND’’- (The causes of Indian Revolt) This book
was published in 1859 after the 1857 revolt after witnessing the
atrocities committed by the British on the inhabitants of Delhi. He
saw an uncle, a cousin and an aunt dying before his eyes. He saved
his mother but she died due to privations she had experienced.
Muslims were the main targets of the government’s wrath.
THE ALIGARH INSTITUTE GAZETTE - It was an organ of the Scientific
Society started in 1866. It made the people think and use their
‘’TEHZIB-UL-AKHLAQ’’ – It succeeded in making people realise the
value of modern knowledge. It also gave new directions to Muslim
social and political thoughts.
Sons (of MAO college later AMU)) shall go forth throughout the
length and breath of the land to preach the message of free inquiry,
of large-hearted toleration and of pure morality.
Acquisition of knowledge of science and technology is the only
solution for the problems of Muslims.
Call me by whatever names you like. I will not ask you for my
salvation. But please take pity of your children. Do something for
them (send them to the school), lest you should have to repent (by
not sending them)
We will remain humiliated and rejected if we do not make progress’’
(in scientific field)
Get rid of old and useless rituals. These rituals hinder human
Superstition cannot be the part of Iman (faith).
The first requisite for the progress of a nation is the brotherhood
and unity amongst sections of the society.
Yes the main purpose of this college (MAO) is to impart modern
education to Muslims who are suffering because of lack of it but
this institution is for all, Hindus and Muslims alike. Both of them
We (Hindus and Muslims) eat the same crop, drink water from the same
rivers and breathe the same air. As a matter of fact Hindus and
Muslims are the two eyes of the beautiful bride that is Hindustan.
Weakness of any one of them will spoil the beauty of the bride (dulhan)
We (Hindus and Muslim) have evolved a new language Urdu
I wish that youth of India should follow the example of young men
and women of England who are religiously engaged in the hard work of
industrial development of their country” (During the stay of Sir
Syed in England).
Look forward, learn modern knowledge, and do not waste time in
studies of old subjects of no value.
Ijtihad (innovation, re-interpretation with the changing times) is
the need of the hour. Give up taqlid (copying and following old
Do not show the face of Islam to others; instead show your face as
the follower of true Islam representing character, knowledge,
tolerance and piety.
We should not (by remaining ignorant and illiterate) tarnish the
image of our able elders.
All human beings are our brother and sisters. Working for their
welfare is obligatory for Muslims.
Remember that the words Hindu and Muslim are only meant for
religious distinction: otherwise all persons who reside in this
country belong to one and the same nation.
Syed's greatest achievement was his Aligarh Movement, which was
nothing but an educational venture. He established schools at
Muradabad in 1859 and Ghazipur in 1863. He also founded a scientific
society in 1864. When Sir Syed was posted at Aligarh in 1867, he
started the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental School in the city. During his
visit to England in 1869, he studied the British educational system
and appreciated it.
Syed wanted MAO College to act as a bridge between the old and the
new systems. His famous quote is that ‘’a true Muslims is one who
must have the holy Quran in one hand and the science in the other’’.
Today we can see the Aligarh Muslim University offering different
courses like Medical, Engineering, Science, Arts, Management,
Syed’s aim was not just to establish a college at Aligarh but he was
interested in spreading education and empowerment among the people
by establishing educational institutions in every nook and corner of
the country. He, therefore, started an organisation called ‘’All
India Muslim Educational Conference’’to achieve this goal. It
motivated the Muslims to open a number of educational institutions
Although the Indian Muslim community has made some good progress in
the educational arena, still they have to go a long way to achieve
the goal that Sir Syed visualised. Only the vision and enthusiasm of
Sir Syed can help us - Muslims to improve our educational and
economic conditions further. It is,therefore, incumbent for us to
revive the Aligarh movement once again to make the people understand
the value of modern education fully.
take this opportunity to request the Vice-Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim
University to start a movement and come to the rescue of the
suffering Muslim community in India. There is no point in blaming
others. One feels that the main cause for our backwardness is lack
of education. Education alone in the present context can empower us
and nothing else. We can create a modern Islamic society only by
taking Muslims to modern professional education like medical,
engineering, teaching, management etc. No options or short cuts at
all. God has given the eyes to see and mind to analyse. We must see
what is happening around us and use our intellect to arrive at a
conclusion. This is what Allah wants us to do. There is no point in
toeing an outdated concept and blaming fate for every misery. Dr.
Allama Mohammed Iqbal’s call should be taken seriously and march
forward. He has said beautifully in the couplet which we read and
hear quite often sometimes it echoes even in the Parliament but we
do not give serious thought to it.
Khudi ko kar buland itna ki har taqdeer say pahlay,
Khuda banday say khud poochay bata teri raza kya hai
(Raise your position so much that God himself may ask you ‘’tell me
what is it that you want?’’).
echoes the holy Quranic strong dictate that we should endeavour to
achieve his rewards. In short we must develop a scientific temper
among the people as the holy Quran says in different verses. We are
mainly responsible for backwardness.
Syed also brought out a journal ‘Tehzibul Akhlaq’ and succeeded in
infusing a new desire amongst Muslims for acquiring modern
Syed finally reached to the conclusion that lack of education was
the main cause of the backwardness of the community.
Syed became successful in his mission and gave a firm foundation of
Aligarh College (Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College) which afterwards
became Aligarh Muslim University by an act of the government. It is
meant for all- Muslims as well as non-Muslim students. All live and
study here in a friendly and peaceful atmosphere. It has got a rich
cultural heritage, which is its special and inimitable one.
intellectuals produced in large numbers by Aligarh Muslim University
served and continue to serve the country in various capacities. The
first graduate of this University was the great revolutionary Raja
Mahendra Pratap Singh. The late Dr. Zakir Hussain, former President
of India and Dr. Syed Mahmood were also Aligarh educated
dignitaries. The university has produced innumerable doctors,
engineers, teachers, scientists, poets, writers, journalists, etc.
Aligarh movement launched by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan influenced the
Muslims in the country, particularly in South India. The Souvenir
brought out on the occasion of the Centenary Celebration of Ambur
Muslim Educational Society on 4th September 2006 mentions as follows
Syed organised the Mohammedan (later Muslim) Educational Conference.
Its branches were established in cities and towns to report on the
educational needs of the community. This conference used to meet
annually at several important cities in the country and carried the
message of modern education far and wide.
5th session of the Conference was held at Madras in 1901 and set in
a brainwave all over the South. Like their brethren in other parts
of the country the Muslims of the Madras presidency were also
antagonistic towards the English education and therefore they were
far behind their other fellow countrymen in public service. Nawab
Mohsinul Mulk Mohsinud Dowla from Aligarh inspired the Conference
with the saga of adventure which Sir Syed has brought into being in
16th December 1905 the Management of the Chowk Masjid madrasa which
was in existence then was taken over and later re-named as
Madrasa-e-Mazharul Uloom. Janab T.Abdullah sahib visited Aligarh,
observed the educational developments there and inspired by it
prepared a plan for a Muslim school in Ambur meant for all religions
and communities without any discrimination whatsoever. It was
primarily his aim to create for young Muslims a good institution for
their educational, cultural and social developments.
educational institutions came up in Tamil Nadu as a result of the
Aligarh movement. Today by the grace of Allah there are 11 (eleven)
full fledged engineering colleges and hundreds of Science and Arts
Colleges, Higher Secondary and Elementary Schools in difference
parts of Tamil Nadu. Many Muslim organisations like All India
Islamic Foundation, Sadaq Trust, The South India Education Trust,
The Muslim Educational Association of Southern India, Ambur Muslim
Educational Society, Vaniyambadi Muslim Educational Society etc.
have been playing a very important role in establishing institutions
and imparting modern education to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Muslims were in the forefront in the struggle for freedom. They
suffered a lot. Many Ulema (religious scholars) were hanged in Delhi
and other places. Sir Syed was worried. He was of the view that
Muslims should not be so vigorous in opposing the British at their
own cost and ignore everything including education and government
Syed wanted Muslims to have friendship with the British if they want
to take their due rights. He quoted the examples of other religious
communities benefiting from the government. While he tried his best
to convince the British that Muslims were not against them, he
persuaded the Muslims repeatedly to befriend the British to achieve
their goals. He also wrote many books and published journals to
remove the misunderstanding between Muslims and the British by
writing booklets like "Loyal Muhammadans of India" and "Cause of
Indian Revolt". Sir Syed asked the Muslims of his time not to
participate in politics unless and until they got modern education.
He was of the view that Muslims could not succeed in the field of
Western politics without knowing the system. He was invited to
attend the first session of the Indian National Congress and to join
the organization but he refused to accept the offer. He gave
importance to the education of the Muslim community and succeeded in
it. His institutions such as the College and the Muslim Educational
Conference continued to influence intellectuals till this day and
will continue to do so in the years to come unhindered.
‘’The real greatness of the man (Sir Syed) consists in the fact that
he was the first Indian Muslim who felt the need of a fresh
orientation of Islam and worked for it’’
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehruji:
‘’Sir Syed was an ardent reformer and he wanted to reconcile modern
scientific thought with religion by rationalistic interpretations
and not by attacking basic belief. He was anxious to push new
education. He was in no way communally separatist. Repeatedly he
emphasized that religious differences should have no political and
Mr. Inder Kumar Gujralji
‘’Sir Syed’s vision and his laborious efforts to meet the demands of
challenging times are highly commendable. The dark post 1857 era was
indeed hopeless and only men like Raja Mohan Roy and Sir Syed could
penetrate through its thick veil to visualize the Nation’s
destinies. They rightly believed that the past had its merits and
its legacies were valuable but it was the future that a society was
called upon to cope with.
offer my homage to Sir Syed for his vision and courage that
withstood all obstructions both from the friends and the foes.’’
great visionary and reformer, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, whose relevance
is felt even today and who will always remain green in our memory
inspiring wise thoughts and absolute principles in the right Islamic
thinking passed away after a brief illness on 27th March 1898 and
was buried the next day in the compound of the mosque in the
College. May his soul continue to live in peace.